Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
y bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hopes true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh

A hiker, walking for pleasure, likes to choose between several alluring trails.
The pilgrim desires only the road that leads home.

~Frank W. Boreham

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Journey Continues~


the Lord your God has set the land before you;

go up and possess it,

as the Lord God of your fathers has said to you;

fear not,

neither be dismayed...

The Lord your God Who goes before you,

He will fight for you...

in all the way you went

before you came to this place."

~from Deuteronomy 1.21-31

Another year is set before us 'to possess'.

What better place to begin than with gleaning from the Rules for the Road.

These words and rules, these directives from Almighty God Himself given which Moses set down for us in the book of Deuteronomy.

May we go on our way rejoicing knowing that our Leader has gone before us "to search out a place for us to pitch our tent."
[photo courtesy of BBC News]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Blessings

Wishing all a joyous Christmas as we remember our One Great Gift.

The breath-taking wonder of the God With Us - our Guide, our Shepherd, our Protector, our Love, all the days of our pilgrim journey.

Emptied of his Majesty,
Of HIS dazzling Glories shorn,
Beings Source begins to BE
And God himself is BORN!

...Knees and Hearts to Him we bow;
Of our Flesh, and of our Bone
JESUS is our Brother now,
And GOD is All our own!

~Charles Wesley

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Remembering With Smiles and Joy

There were times you made me crazy and times I wanted to throttle you. You were a son, after all.

But those times can perhaps be compared to the pains of child birth, you remember they occurred but over time they recede and blur.
And over time, that which is joyous burbles to memory's surface and there remains.

Memories are personal things and private.
Some are to be shared, some to be kept near the heart. All to be treasured.

Remembered and shared this day:
  • my delight in hearing your first sermon on the 23rd Psalm and this before you became 'family'
  • the seriousness with which you proclaimed your marriage vows
  • the awe with which you held your first born
  • our quiet conversation in the snow under an Alaskan sky waiting for an Aurora Borealis light show (the show never came but the conversation is etched on the heart)
  • the silly times when your quirky humor came out
  • the time you brought down the house with your Belle of Belfast

We remember you this day with grateful hearts.

We think of you every day.

We miss you but we would not call you back from the unspeakable joys you now enjoy.

We do not grieve for you but for our loss of you and we grieve for ourselves being left behind.

Dale Alan Valovich


Monday, December 13, 2010

Obedient As A Shadow

A fruit of holy obedience is simplicity, simplicity of the trusting child.

"The mark of this simplified life is radiant joy.
It lives in the Fellowship of the Transfigured face.
Knowing sorrow to the depths it does not agonize and fret and strain,
but in serene, unhurried calm
it walks in time with the joy and assurance of Eternity....
in childlike trust listening ever to Eternity's whisper,
walking with a smile into the dark."
~Thomas R. Kelly

Friday, December 10, 2010

Traveling With A Post Hole Digger and Mr. Spurgeon

"Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guide posts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went." So says the prophet Jeremiah and so has been the course of my pilgrimage. The turning points in my history can be traced through hymns and scriptures given and claimed in time of crises and great need.
These, my waymarkers.

God's people have always traveled in this manner, sometimes setting up alters, stones, waymarkers under His instruction. Sometimes on their own like Jacob and Bethel, Samuel and Ebenezer, Joshua and his men at the crossing of the sea. Like Joshua, some of those monuments are visible "so that when the children ask what do these stones mean," the story of God's Sovereignty can be told. Sometimes stones are set up and then covered over, hidden by the waters. These are known only to the child and his God.

But all are for remembrance, remembering the ways in which God has faithfully led and guided, warned and protected, soothed and comforted.

It happened again in a recent situation. I shall spare your, Dear Reader, the grizzly details. Just know it was a soul shattering, spirit disturbing, physically affecting occurrences. Blindly I went to the only source I know of true comfort. Even in that, the easy road was taken, i.e. the Psalter portion for the day. There the Lord met and supplied giving brilliant light to a familiar Psalm read through and passed over so many times before.

Psalm 27 "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation - whom shall I fear or dread?"
[Both fear and dread were present.] "The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?"...

"Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, in this will I be confident." Here my thoughts immediately ran to a scripture taught at mother's knee, the remembrance of another encampment promised, that of the angel of the Lord that surrounds those that fear Him. A strong and comforting arsenal, that.

There are many more riches in this Psalm, but for me, for now the best is in verse 5, and this is where Mr. Spurgeon called back down the trail of time and strengthened my heart.

"For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His pavilion" [KJV here]
The Lord, says Mr. Spurgeon, will give me the best of shelter in the worst of danger. The royal pavilion was in the center of the army, and round it all the mighty men kept guard round the clock. Thus in that position of divine sovereignty which almighty power is sworn to maintain, we are hidden hospitably by the King'

"In the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me." Sacrifice aids sovereignty in screening the child from harm. No one of old dared to enter the most holy place on pain of death. And if the Lord has hidden his child there, who could dare enter?

"He shall set me up upon a rock." Immutability, eternity and infinite power join sovereignty and sacrifice.

"How blessed is the standing of the one whom God himself sets high, protected from his enemies, upon an impregnable rock which never can be stormed!"

In the days following the 'incident', these eternal truths have been pondered, rehearsed, remembered. You can be certain that a very deep hole has been dug in the dull clay of the heart to secure a most important sign post.

Photo courtesy of Robert Moseley and BBC news service
Spurgeon's thoughts and insight from The Treasury of David.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decking the Halls And Cheap Greens

Decorating for the Christmas season is always a delightful task. But I confess, there is now a faux tree, pre-wired and bulbed only requiring a plug in, at the ready in the attic crawl space.
This was a choice made some years back as the Resident Grinch was always a hard person to convince that cutting, hauling and paying for a fresh tree was a really great thing.
Yet with all the above, I miss the fragrance of real greens. So this year the decision was made-gather fresh greens. While not having much to choose from in my own yard, there are enough trees around to contribute, so....
When we went out and about on our Monday rounds today, the garden clippers were taken. The idea was to stop when it was prudent, of course, and where there was a large branch down by the roadside. We noticed this small one here, that larger one over there and kept driving to Point A on today's list.
Lovely ending to a silly tale: after getting the needful groceries, we noticed evergreen boughs scattered about in the landscaping of the parking lot. (There is a large stand of evergreens near by.)
As we drove away with a trunk full of lovely pickin's, some even with cones attached, Himself remarked: "You really can get almost anything at Costco!" :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sweet Repeating

This is a cautionary tale while at the same time provoking happy thoughts.

Funny how we are repeaters of what we hear. We pick up accents, catch phrases, words we enjoy and make them our own.

Our present life lesson of this is heard continually as our little great-grand-lad goes through his day. He repeats it all, whatever he hears, from all he hears, whether folk of flesh and blood, or his newest friends Pooh and Tigger. It is charming, really while at the same time making one conscious of what and how one speaks!

In today's reading, I came across, in the midst of the familiar something not seen before. Again a phrase heard and claimed. And later on repeated. This time by the apostle John. John chapter 13 gives us the picture. The one whom Jesus loved is leaning back against Jesus, or so reads the ESV, and he hears Jesus calling his men "little children".

So it came to pass, in his writings, John repeats and makes this phrase his own referring to his beloved ones as "my little children".

All this warms the heart, doesn't it? A wise lesson too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Practicing God's Sovereignty

And speaking of boldness...

Peter and John before the the great and powerful men of their day, with their activities called into question, preached. The great and powerful recognized two things: that they were common men and uneducated, and "that they had been with Jesus".

The powerful, confronted with Power, became powerless. So they threatened.

Peter and John return to the fellowship. They did not return hand-wringing, nor did they rehearse the threats given them. No. They rehearsed the Sovereignty of God in prayer.

Rehearsing and remembering, beginning with the created acts of universe construction. Then remembering the ancient words of David as well as the acts of the victorious, overcoming Lord Jesus.

Their prayer ended with an "oh by the way, Lord". "Now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your words with all boldness."

An amazing record, this. It becomes our example when we are up against it - whatever "it" may be. It is "Looking away from all that distracts to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

It is seen in Marting Luther's stand when threatened by the pope's man. Martin was asked "and when all your supporters desert you, where will you be then? And our dear Dr. Luther replied: "Then as now, in the hands of God."

So for today, my goal is to rehearse and remember, to practice the Sovereignty of my God lest fear and bleakness gain a foothold.

And may any watching know that I have been with Jesus.

[For scripture reference, see Acts 4. 23-31]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Strong Comfort

Once upon a time, as a mother of four teens I observed an important fact. My faithful God, in His mercy, never allowed all four to be in teen crisis at the same time.
And there were always crises about. There, at all times was at least one whose days were smooth flowing.

At that same time I learned something far greater in value, that my part was to commit and entrust to Clearer Eyes and Stronger Hands these my darlings.

Such is our family's reality just now. While there are not any situations which could be labeled crisis, as such, still there are many grievous challenges, hurts and disappointments, longings, and physical issues that cause concern. These can weigh like mighty stones on a mother's heart.

So my thoughts go back to the early days and lessons.

To commit is to consign for preservation, for safe keeping.

To entrust in this case is not the dictionary's example of "entrusting ones life to a frayed rope" but rather to One who is a strong cable and a steadfast anchor.

The scripture from which all this springs? The promised preservation and safe keeping of my beloveds?

"...I have knowledge of and am acquainted with Him
Whom I believed, trusted in and relied on,
and am positively persuaded that He is able to guard
and keep
that which has been entrusted to me
and which I have committed to Him
until that day."
~II Timothy 1.12, Amplified

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessing Drops

O Thou, whose bounty fills my cup
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop-
The bitter and the sweet.
~Jane Crewdson

These are Thanksgiving dinner 'leftovers' - the snippets of new memories added to my personal blessing cup. They each are just droplets, yet added together with others hidden deep in the heart, add up to a cup quite overflowing.

I'm ever aware of the fact that as a family we are exceedingly blessed. As we anticipate a family gathering, there is no dread, no fears regarding tensions or unpleasantness that may arise. Fact is, we enjoy each other. There is always much noise but it is the sound of laughter and delight. Sometimes there are the quieter notes of talk on serious subjects. Even there, where there might be disagreement there is no fear of anger or reprisal.

This year there was some doubt as to our even having a family gathering. Yet, in Mercy, the weather changed enough to clear the roads for safe travel. We all were most grateful for this.

Now for some personal, specific drops of joy:

  • a table set in readiness with candles aglow
  • daughters that busied themselves in the kitchen with food fixing
  • a grand son who ably and without a word took on the carving of Big Bird
  • the family anthem of the Doxology sounding full of harmony and glorious.
  • [here there is one of those bitter-ish drops - there have been occasions of grief where Doxology singing was a part. These will forever come to mind when we gather and lift our voices]
  • happy, noisy chatter/clatter of cutlery and conversation
  • and baby noises. What a glorious dimension these add to our gathering, any gathering.
  • the hilarious tradition of individual introductions of pseudonyms and professions for the day
  • at meal's end, three generations of menfolk - to a man - standing without a word and clearing and washing up.
  • delightful guests joining our ranks this year. Lovely indeed
  • home for dessert and much conversation -some collective, much choice and individual
  • and baby-passing, snuggling, enjoying
  • Wee Lad playing happily with what he knows are the allowed things - sitting reading his books, playing with Noah's Ark, enjoying his basket of rocks, drawing with Grand-Nan's colored pencils.
  • enjoying the after glow when all had returned to their homes.
  • finding remnants of the day - a partial banana on the piano top, two wooden sheep in the Cloister chair, rocks in the corners of the sofa.
  • [another taste of the bitter: those who were absent from our table..because of geography, because of work demands, because of Translation to a more glorious place.

This list may now seem that grand and great, but you see, Dear Reader, for me, each entry has a face attached, the sound of a beloved voice and a radiance inexplicable. With all those family members dear, and with our four littlest ones, our day was spent in the presence of angels. Angels always hover where babies dwell.

The tummies were filled. And so was and is the heart. Such blessings are mine. I take none for granted.

Whether bitter or sweet, all have come from my loving Heavenly Father's hand. Of this I am certain. In this I rejoice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer

Without going back into the archives to make certain, I'm quite sure that last year I posted the following prayer by George Herbert. Yet, for many Thanksgivings of my life it has been a prayer of mine. It is the cry of my heart. So here it is once again, the fragment of a larger poem.

This year we as a family have so much to be thankful for. We are so abundantly blessed. These blessings none of us take for granted I know. There are challenges ahead - and these are those that are known. What we also know and are continually renewing is the fact of the faithfulness of our God, the additional fact that He meets us -always- at our point of need, and that His mercies continue to be new, fresh, surprisingly precious each new day. We can only fall before Him in adoration.

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart...
Not thankful, when it pleaseth me
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.

Are there ever 'spare days' where His blessings are concerned? Never.
So then, the prayer is for a heart whose very pulse praises. Always.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

Hmmm. What about this snow? As many years as I can remember (with the exception of the years spent in Skykomish) flooding has been the situation at Thanksgiving. Not so this year.

When serious snow comes to our part of the Northwest, the world pretty much stops. Roads that need to be traveled by family are either back country sorts or killer freeways. Most towns and cities are under equipped to enable life to go on smoothly. So adjustment is required and this year that means dinner plans.

Of course we are all proceeding as though our family gathering will take place. Big Bird will be picked up today. Baking is going on in the different homes. The forecast predicts warming, rains and such. But forecasts have been known to be wrong. Often.

For today, there is a bright sky overhead, the world's activities quieted to a whisper and the garden is blanketed. And for today there is a recipe and a prayer.

Recipe first - for a cranberry chutney. The original recipe appears in the holiday Taste of Home magazine. But as is my habit, I tinkered a bit with this and that. What turned out is yumalicious if I do say so myself. My thought was to have it for the cheese and bread board on Thanksgiving day. However, I've been eating in on my yogurt, and even just with a spoon from a bowl. It is that tasty.

This is the tinkered version:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water

In saucepan, bring these to a boil and then simmer for about three minutes to dissolve sugars.

Remove from heat and stir in the following:

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
2 large tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 smallish onion chopped
1/2 cup raisins
another 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

Return to heat, simmer uncovered 20 or so minutes or until desired thickness. Remembering that cranberries continue to thicken as they cool. Yield: 4 cups

Now from food for the body, food for the soul.

"...We thank Thee for a faith with wings
to lift us above evil and wrong
and to seek the truth.
We thank Thee for the prayer
that builds bridges over the impossible
and gives us visions that all things work together for good
for those who love Thy name.
At this Thanksgiving season we stand in awe
of Thy majesty and whisper,
How great Thou art!"
Prayer written by Thyra Ferre Bjorn in her book The Home Has A Heart,
Holt Rinehart Winston pub.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Most Essential Preparation

The family is soon to be gathering.
And my heart sings.

Lists are everywhere; mustn't over look a thing.
The food must be the best, the tastiest.
The house must be shining and spit-spot.
It must be warm and inviting.

But today, this day especially set apart as the Lord's other thoughts come to mind.

Today's desire ~
To tidy up the worldly trinkets and comforts
that clutter the soul's living room floor.

More than anything, when the clan gathers,
I want a quiet heart, an uncluttered heart,
a heart that sees and savors,
a heart whose joy and love is understood and known,
even without words.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Days of Thanksgiving Continue

His name means "man of peace". And so he has always been.

Growing up a lone lad with three sisters was not an easy journey. There were times, in the early years they would vex his soul beyond endurance. In the worst of times, he would stand, fists doubled, shaking them and muttering through
teeth clenched: "Oh I wish I could hit them!". He never did, though at times they were not doubt deserving.

He was from early days a creative thinker, a serious thinker. He was gifted in many ways, not the least of which was that of a keen wit. This alone perhaps saved him from the maddening ways of the sisters three.

As a boy he put his faith in Christ and as an early teen, vowed to spend time daily in God's Word. So he has done. So he became a man. And such a man.

A Renaissance Man of sorts really, husband, father, teacher, builder, craftsman, gardener, writer, singer, poet, composer. He continues to be an attentive reader, lover and doer of the Word. He is a seeker, a learner, an overcomer and the best example of worthy pilgrim I know.

In truth, I would wish for every woman such a son. Through the years he has been my friend, my mentor, my constant joy and delight.

Happy Birthday This Day, Son of my heart.

How very thankful I am for the man you have become "through many dangers, toil and snares".

Mark the blameless man
and behold the upright,
for there is a happy end for the man of peace.
Psalm 37.37

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Day

For all who have served, do serve, will serve "for God and Country", heartfelt thanks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

William Morris* vs. Dorcas Lane* and Thanksgiving

There is a conflict that rages within especially this time of year. The problem is things, their purpose, their value, their presence in my life.

We live simply. We really do. We are not acquisitive on the grand scale. We can drive by yard sales. In fact, this very day the library book sale in the neighboring town - always on a grand scale - is being ignored.

There is little in our home that is of great value on the open market. Yet there are many items that are treasured - family pieces with history, gifts added through the years, memories of travels and such.

An effort is made to apply Mr. Morris' directive to have only those things which are thought beautiful or are useful. And even the Shaker sensibility appeals to me. But this becomes complicated because there is also a cheery Dorcas "this is my one weakness" reality in my soul.

The problem develops from this: each November the members of our church fellowship are given little booklets, "Thankfulness in November". These simply offer something in our lives - one for each day of the month - for which we are to be thankful. It is a calling to attention, really, of the common place things that make up our lives. It is giving opportunity to notice and give thanks. This thanksgiving is in the form of designated coin value to be offered. This offering then, becomes collectively, a seasonal gift for the missionaries our church supports.

Day 1: "How many dinner plates do you have? One cent for each." Right off, you see, the compiler is getting nosy. China is my "one weakness". Besides, with a growing family unit, additional plates are always needed when the clan gathers. And you should have different patterns, or at least colors for the different seasons and occasions. Shouldn't you?

Day 2: "Thank the bank for each of your siblings. 5 cents for each". Well of course. This is well and good. And the following page 5 cents for each grandchild? Easy. These are treasures indeed. I shall even be generous and contributed for each grand-in-law . In these we are truly blessed. Oh, and the Great-grands too? Most certainly.

We are reminded that trips during the year are blessings as are, shoes, vehicles, even clocks, Bibles and phone calls. Lovely.

There is one day coming to 'give thanks' for the number of books owned, ("my one weakness"), another for DVDs, (O dear). Yet another for photos and/or art on the walls. (Oh my, all weaknesses). This year it is obvious: I'm so blessed in life's abundant riches that I need a job in order to pay up!

I gladly give. I do appreciate my many 'treasures'.

I only hope next year the compiler doesn't add things outside, like the number of old bricks that edge the garden plots. Or rose bushes!

*William Morris, 19th century artist, leader of the English Arts and Crafts movement
*Dorcas Lane, heroine of Lark Rise to Candleford

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Monk, A Passion and a Hammer

He's always been a favorite of mine, the good Doctor Luther. The record of his life never ceases to thrill me.

He was only a man who wanted, when nailing up his theses, to bring about a lively discussion with fellow scholars and theologians concerning the disturbing wrongs going on in his beloved church. He never intended to light the fires that turned the world on its head, that changed the church forever.

He was only a man with a passion for God and His truth. He was only a man in the right place at the right time, willing to be used by his God to do what needed doing.

His thought was:

to affirm that penance implies repentance,
that mortification of the flesh is useless accompanied with inner repentance,
that the merits of Christ alone bring forgiveness of sins,
that the real treasure of the church is the gospel of the Grace of God in Jesus Christ.

This date was the day Martin pounded his thesis on the Wittenberg door.
What a shame that we as the church (other than the High church, perhaps) have over looked this date.

God has always told his people to
remember and
to tell the Children".

I wonder if through the years we had taught the heroism of this man who gave his health and life through striving to preserve God's word and God's church,
who protected the scripture and preached God Truth in the face of persecution,
would we feel the need to work so hard putting together 'harvest parties' in an effort to counteract the Halloween hoopla which grows bigger every year? Wouldn't our own great celebration be in place? Perhaps then the children would have no desire, or at least less desire to follow the world on this date.

But back to Martin. I leave you with his oft quoted statement of defence before his accusers.
May it be the standard we hold high and follow, and may we teach the children.

"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply,
I will answer without horns and without teeth.
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-
I do not accept the authority of popes and councils,
for they have contradicted each other-
my conscience is captive to the Word of God.
I cannot and I will not recant anything,
for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
God help me. Amen."

Friday, October 29, 2010

J. B. For The Day

We pray that you will be strengthened
by God's glorious power,
So that you may be able to pass through any experience
and endure it with joy.

You will be able to thank the Father
because you are privileged to share the lot
of the saints who are living in the light.
Colossians 1.11,12, Phillips

Today I'm thinking of a young man in our local fellowship.

His was a very rough early life. There were years in prison.
He married, had children.

At present his is the sole parenting responsibility for these still very young children.
He works all day, cares for his little one by evening.

He studies law at night on the internet.
He has a straight A average.

Three evenings a week he cleans house for his former wife and the children's mother because of his love for her.
She sits her life long in front of a computer screen playing games and eating.

And every Sunday, he faithfully bring his children, dressed and tidy, to Sunday School and Church.
He faces his days head on.
Never have I heard him complain.

He is my hero.

This young man 'puts skin on' these scriptures.
May I follow his example.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lions in the Pathway

Even while we are trusting, even when we "lean hard" on the Savior, there is, as Amy Carmichael said, room for fear to move.

Little fears we can easily push aside, or shout into submission. Its the bigger fears, the ones that grip the heart with icy fingers and won't let go that are troublesome. Indeed, they roar their chilling ideas in the ears sounding just like lions. They do tend to stop us in our tracks, making progress difficult.

(How grateful I am to have had a mother who took the time to read to her children of another Pilgrim.
This Pilgrim left such a gripping tale, filled with wise directions for those of us who, many generations later walk the same pilgrim way as he. And so today's thought.)

Is your strength too small?
Do not fear the lions for they are chained
and are placed there to test your faith
and to discover those who have none.
Keep to the middle of the path,
and no harm shall come to you.

Then I saw that Christian went forward
trembling for fear of the lions
but carefully following the directions of the Porter.
He heard them roar, but they did him no harm.

Then he clapped his hands and went on...."

We can be ever grateful for our great and wondrous Lion of Judah, the creator, keeper and trainer of lions who even has been known to 'stop the mouths' of lions.

He guides gently and carefully along - down the center of our every path.

Being assured then, that the lions roar cannot harm, may we go on, hands a-clapping.

May we come through this present test, like Apelles of old: "that one tried and approved in Christ".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning, Growing, Stretching

It took me an entire year to recover from turning 50. It wasn't so much the fact that the number marked a half a century. That was well and good. It was the shock of finding that I hadn't achieved the wisdom that many years should have produced. That was my thinking.

Now, many years after that milestone I am humbled once again. It's the spiritual and life lessons thought already learned that catch one off guard, that baffle, isn't it?

Beginning to love as He love me began in my early years. Loving, embracing, taking others into my heart has always come easily.

Learning to follow the Leader, began, albeit reluctantly, at age 30 something.

The Sovereignty of God? - that issue was settled once and for all at age 40 through an either/or experience. He was either who He claimed to be and acknowledge that or like Job's wife suggested, curse Him and die.

The biggest life lesson, the one deliberately claimed, began in the first year of our ministry (age 33). This is the one point to which I am repeatedly returned. This issue was claimed in sincerity of heart, but time has proved in blissful ignorance as well.

"...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3.10)

The fellowship of His sufferings. Oh my. Whatever was I thinking?

Time and life have proved I am no Paul. Nevertheless, this prayer continues to be my heart's desire. Yet learning about suffering in its many colors and forms seems an endless quest. One bit comes, seemingly and finally learned only to be presented with more and greater. Each time the former is left in the dust, or perhaps ashes of further experiences.

These sufferings do not take the form of imprisonment or floggings, though they sometimes feel like that. I'm speaking here of situations and experiences not of my own making and completely out of my hands to resolve, boat rocking, heart stopping experiences. These are the stresses, the losses, the griefs that come, these that are part of every life yet always seem to take us by surprise.

Of course, in the midst of all there is much joy and delight.

This all brings us to the present day. This time of life that is golden is so many ways. My family nearby, or at least quite near, the increase in our family, these are blessings and joys indeed. The increase has given us the amazing bit of history allowing us to claim four living generations. That is most humbling.

When the newest members were added so recently - those two beautiful little girl-persons- it was asked of me "how can you contain the joy of it all?" Good question.

I was surprised that these little lasses, along with the older Lad have each staked a claim on heart territory.

This territorial claiming has even caused a stretching, if you will, that is physical in sensation. This must be what scripture calls the 'enlarged heart'. In checking out the phrase in the Hebrew, it included the aspect of being opened wide by joy. Its that. Yes! That's the feeling.

But along with this amazing and great joy, there is the grey cloud of suffering over head. One little lass has a physical heart that is not, in human terms, normal. This causes great pain and suffering (not to mention concern) to those who hold her dear, who love her parents, and their parents, all the way back to the Grand-Nan who writes this.

Of course, there is truly the assurance that this child who 'was formed in secret' was so formed by the loving and all-wise hands of her creator God. And this God creates all good for His purpose. So this child who is now ours is perfect in His sight, according to His plan and purpose for her, for us all.

In the midst of many tears, there was the discovery of a new truth about hearts and suffering, growing and stretching. This was found in the writings of another and it can only be assumed that the writer is acquainted with grief himself. He writes:

"The heart is stretched through suffering, and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Yet the way of holy obedience leads out from the heart of God
and extends through the Valley of the Shadow."

So then, the heart enlarged by suffering, like the heart enlarged by love, also is opened wide by joy.

Because we follow a suffering Savior, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, we should not be surprised that suffering and joy are part of the same package or of our lives.

We should not fear enlarged hearts by whatever means they come.

We still feel the pain, excruciatingly.

There are still tears, floods.

But we accept all that has been given as from the Father's hand.

And we go on our way rejoicing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shadows of Life and Shadows of The Rock

Yes. Sometimes the shadows fall. They are not new. Sometimes they fall so suddenly. Even yesterday came the reminder that shadows themselves indicate light still exists. That helps. A bit.

So we come once again to a time when all that remains for us is Trust. Once again of necessity we run to Our Almighty Rock and stand shattered under His Shadow. He has promised and we are to "remain stable and fixed" there.

We are to say of the Lord "He is my refuge and fortress".

We are required to lean. He tells us this.

So we do. So we will.
The tears are not fewer.
The pain of the aching mother's heart still throbs with every beat.

At times like this an ancient poem, a prayer, really, of unknown origin comes to mind.

Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care,
I know thy burden, child, I shaped it,
Poised in Mine own hand, made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength;
For even as I laid it on I said,
'I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms,
Of Mine own love. Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on the shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come,
Thou art not near enough; I would embrace thy care,
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I know it. Doubt not, then,
But, loving Me, lean hard.

For myself, for my own darlings, This Night, I lean. I can do no other thing.
I know no other One.
"A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" - in this I my take comfort.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Year of the Daughters, Part 2

Is it a matter of history repeating itself? In a way.
Is it the Circle of Life? A bit.
Perhaps an echo of the Prophet Ezekiel's statement "like mother, like daughter"?

Whatever it may be it is a fact in the history of our family, a delightful, joyous repetition.

Part 1, The Year of the Daughters, was a piece of family history Past.
This is very much family history Present.

This story is of daughter # 2 of the original set of daughters.
This Daughter also had daughters three.

While not as close in age, still very close as it was often true that they were each other's sole playmates and friends, and their mother with them.

And these three daughters of the present generation are also remarkably gifted, breath-takingly beautiful, amazingly witty, clever, delightful. Each, in the way of individuals has brought great blessing and delight to the grand parents as well as all others whose lives they have touched. (Not to mention the lives of the men they have married.)

Life called these daughters to a quite different pilgrim path. They have faced deep things which have grieved and tested. They each, in their own ways have accepted and grown greatly in spirit because of their pilgrimage. And thus they have been, with their mother, brought to this place, this Year of the Daughters.

It began with a wedding, that of the youngest. The immeasurable beauty of the wedding has been written of in an early entry here. But again, it was like no other wedding in its gentle, composed purity and sweetness, first of the bride and groom and then the tone and example they set for all. It was a picture book wedding set on a most glorious summer's day.

The ceremony, solemn, the reception, one of delight and rejoicing with the entire family in attendance; the 'cake', strawberry shortcake.

The scene now changed. Not too many weeks down the pathway, Elder Sister #1 brought forth a dear little lass. This wee child was welcomed into a home where grace is ever present, where calm and quiet voices are the normal way of life. She became the instant possession of a not too-much elder brother who became at once her adoring champion and protector.

[deep breath, re-pack overnight bag]

But six days later, and a number of miles to the north, wee lass # 2 entered the clan's heart. This dear child is the first-born and enters a home where love abounds, just waiting to engulf her.

[Please note, Dear Reader, that each of these new little princesses are perfect in every way. And in the way of adorable wee things have already captured the heart of all comers.]

Looking back to scenario # 1, there is mostly gratitude and awe at the strength of survival of those long ago days. In the here and now there is again gratitude but tears of great joy, and those in abundance. In the past there was no time for tears. This time, as only a spectator, it is far easier to just watch, to savor and delight.

Often in my life there has been the thought that the only regret is not having had more children. At present, reviewing the continual blessings to me, to us, the heart is so full I think this earthen vessel would burst to bits if there were more. There are not enough rich, meaningful words to express my wonder, my thanksgiving to my God and King.

The words of the apostle Paul seem a fitting close.

For what is our hope or happiness,
our victor's wreath of triumph
when we stand in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?
Are not you?
For you are indeed our glory and our joy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Fresh Breeze From the Overfamiliar

Yesterday was a grand day for our clan, a truly blessed day. A new little lamb arrived, a sweet pink bundle of blessing in human form. Added to that, her arrival was on an auntie's birthday. Is that not a double gift?

As I was counting my blessings, all this made me wonder what Psalms in Common Prayer were within the bounds for the day. One of those is Psalm 23. How appropriate is that?

But, as precious a Psalm as it is, it seems too common, if such a blasphemous word can be applied to the Word. The treasured phrases have become so commonplace in their usage. Its language is inserted in unholy movie scenarios, it is quoted without much feeling in too many instances, even in the church setting.

Here then is what I found. This is the metric version of this beloved Psalm of David from the 1856 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Lord, Himself, the mighty Lord,
Vouchsafes to be my guide;
The shepherd, by whose constant care
My wants are all supplied.

In tender grass He makes me feed,
And gently there repose;
Then leads me to cool shades, and where
Refreshing water flows.

He does my wandering soul reclaim,
And, to His endless praise,
Instruct with humble zeal to walk
In His most righteous ways.

I pass the gloomy vale of death,
From fear and danger free;
For there His aiding rod and staff
Defend and comfort me.

Since God doth thus His wondrous love
Through all my life extend,
That life to Him I will devote,
And in His presence spend.


That will do nicely. Quite well indeed, actually. Excellently so.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The Year Of The Daughters, Part 1

Daughters Three. Close in age, to be sure, close by blood and Blood, also remaining very close by sisterly affection. All grew to become remarkably gifted, breath-takingly beautiful, amazingly witter, clever, funny women. All are the delight of all who know them and love them.

For myself, not only do I feel blessed by their being on this planet, but I consider them among my most treasured and trusted friends. That is not such an odd thing. After all, we grew up together.

Sovereignty has called these daughters to quite different pilgrim paths, quite different life styles, and for many years placed them in quite different geographic locations.

The story of their years would read quite differently in many respects just as that of their mother.

Every year of our lives has had significance. Every year is memorable yet all are not remembered equally. Some fade and blend into the others. Some, however, are highlighted in the mind and heart because of events.

One year in particular was like no other. First there was a wedding, the eldest, Daughter Number 1 of this narrative, and Number 1 in truth.

It was a most beautiful, and for our family, grand wedding.

It was Big City. It was High Church. It was Glorious Cathedral. The bride was gowned in a swath of lovely Designer creativity. But like the other two previous, the bride was beautiful and radiant. The groom too, for that matter was radiant - yes, grooms can glow too.

The ceremony, solemn, the reception boisterous, the 'cake', apple pie.

And so from a glorious wedding, another solid, loving marriage began.

Within a few short days the theme switched. There was a baby to be born by the youngest of the daughters, Number 2 in this story.

A dear, wee lad entered the family. The homecoming was a small, cozy mountain cabin knee deep in Autumn's golden splendor. There was no bustle or fanfare. All was peaceful and picture book - very Little House on the Prairie, or in this case, on the hill in the woods. Two still-small daughters greeted the new arrival with gentle sisterly regard. All was love and affection and peace.

Swiftly moving days, again very few in number, found the focus of yet another event, yet another little one's arrival. Daughter 3 of this account was actively involved. Up North and Back of Beyond in snowy Alaska became the birthplace of a dear wee lass. Many miles were traveled between the small town of her birth to the log cabin home where she would begin her life's pilgrimage. She too, was greeted and lovingly received by two older adoring sisters and ushered into a home of peace.

All these events happened in a ten day span. There was hardly time to catch the breath or shift the mental gears, yet each is seen with the eyes of the heart in vivid, living color. Each is seen, while separate, as truly wonderful. A highly colored swath in the family tapestry.

From these have been added many lovely events and memories, other babies and weddings of some of these babies. Yes, a very rich tapestry. Numerous blessings of Grace from the Father of All Grace and Faithfulness.

Please stand by, Dear Reader for Part 2 of this saga.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

...and I quote,....

We all have them. Tasks, jobs, duties, yea verily, callings.

So often the thoughts come that "wouldn't it be grand if...." Or perhaps there is a sudden attack of the if-only's. Let's face it, in the grand scheme of things it seems mostly that the task(s) before us each day is/are not world spinning, headline making glamor. We slog, we slump, we might even (oh, heaven forbid) mutter and grumble.

"Frustration is coded into the very structure of fallen Creation." (Romans 8.18-21)

So This Day, a new tactic.

This Day, laundry folding will become sacrament, deadheading perennials,liturgy.

Martin Luther wrote:

"The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God as much as the monk who prays, not because she may sing a hymn as she sweeps,
but because God loves clean floors.
The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes,
but by making good shoes,
because God is interested in good craftsmanship."

There is a sanctity in honest work. There is something in it that pleases not just the eyes of man, but the heart of God.

In the early church there were slaves. The instruction given them when they came to Faith was not to leave, but to be the best, most obedient slaves possible.

"The opposite of a slave is not a free man. It is a worshiper."

The one who turns the work of his hands into an offering of service to the Lord, is the one who blesses, who walks rightly, righteously. He or she is the one, who can pray along with Moses

"Let the beauty and favor and delightfulness of the Lord our God be upon us;
confirm and establish the work of our hands,
yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it."

The work of our hands by the alchemy of our devotion, becomes the worship of our hearts.

More than that, work done in such a spirit has the power to reveal Christ Himself.
It is reflective. It not only makes Christ attractive, it makes Christ known.

Today, I shall think 'foot washing'.

The One who designed and created feet, from the dust of the road itself, so to speak, stooped, took a towel and washed them, dirty, cracked men's feet.
And in the washing, ministered.


Or maybe: life lesson.

This Day, prayerfully and with thanksgiving I shall attempt to kneed the reality of that truth into the details of my tasks.

(phrases in italics indicate quotes from Mark Buchanan)

Friday, September 24, 2010

What is it about Autumn?

Something about the sweet smells of earth, of ripening berries along the roadside that calls to something deep within, in Fall.

The amber light which this time of year slants in and backlights adding a golden glow to everything.

There are warm memories of haying, of berry picking and cabbage cutting on misty mornings; of new shoes and lunch pails, school bus sightings, and hurried prayers over the children.

In the Now, there are herbs to gather, seeds to collect, the garden to be put to bed. There is preserving to be done, jamly to make. (Jamly: fruit with pulp to make rich, substantial spreading, not thin clear liquid turned solid.)

Something about Autumn also makes the spirit mellow, almost melancholy. Is that because you can't help noticing the year is winding to its end?

For me that is combined with the fact that this is the time of year we were married long years ago. It is also the season when my first born first smiled her way into our lives.

And it is the time of harvest. It is a time to savor while remembering summer's collected joys and storing up for winter.

My life is much different now from the farm years. Yet much of the spirit of that time lingers, hovers and almost seems to haunt.

With the differences of life and rhythm there still is the call to review 'the crop' of the year, to rejoice and give thanks.

As Mark Buchanan so beautifully writes:

"...a time to acknowledge God as provider:
rainmaker, sun-keeper, storm-quencher.
The season [proving] yet again,
God's enduring faithfulness...."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lord's Day Thoughts

Lord of all power and might,

which art the author and giver of all good things;

graft in our hearts the love of thy name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is the collect of Thomas Cranmer for this Sunday of the Church Year.

It is the verbs of this collect that to me seem so powerful.

To graft: a part inserted from another so as to become nourished by and united with it(! )

To increase: to make greater in any respect

To nourish: to sustain, supply with what is necessary for maintaining life

To keep: to maintain, to cause to continue in some place, position, state or course;

to protect, guard, tend, take care of.

True religion: James, not the dictionary gives us this - "to visit orphans and widows in their troubles and to keep unspotted from the world." (KJV) Or as the Moffatt translation reads '...from the stain of the world.

This then is our position in Christ as well as our calling: purity of life and Kingdom work.

I'm reminded of the two fabrics noted in the Proverb of the Women of Excellence. Wool and linen.

Wool, in scripture always refers to the fabric of our humanity. One of the great flaws/characteristics of wool is that it readily soaks up stains and colors of anything close to it or any dye offered. Wool also deteriorates over time because of rot, the eating of bugs nor can it take sudden change in temperature.

Linen, on the other hand, which speaks to the garments of our Redemption, His righteousness, is resistant to staining, to spotting. Linen also is strong, enduring, not easily destroyed from outside elements.

The process to produce these two fibers is also in contrast. The steps for wool to yarn are simple and straight forward. Linen on the other hand, requires extreme conditions, many steps taken and hard work to achieve the final product.

Interesting. One along easy lines the other quite the opposite. So it is with our Soul work. Great pains and attention are needed to bring about that consistent purity of life and love which enables us to minister to others.

It all comes from being grafted, nourished and kept by the One Who before time began, chose me for His own with an Everlasting Love.

By His great mercy, may I desire above all things to love His name and "make His will my home."